Friday, April 18, 2014

Reread #16: A Year Down Yonder

A Year Down Yonder. Richard Peck. 2000. Penguin. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

I loved A Year Down Yonder so much more than Richard Peck's A Long Way From Chicago. And I definitely enjoyed A Long Way From Chicago! While A Long Way From Chicago was told from Joey's point of view, A Year Down Yonder is told from Mary Alice's point of view. Because of the Depression, Mary Alice has been sent by her parents to live with Grandma Dowdel. Mary Alice has spent more than a few summers with her Grandma, alongside her brother, but this time she'll be there all year long, and without her brother.

While A Long Way From Chicago is fun, in many ways, it is a bit disjointed as well. Each chapter tells the story of a summer vacation. In A Year Down Yonder, the plot is more traditional. The book follows the course of an entire year. Readers get a better chance to KNOW the characters, to appreciate the characters and the small town setting. And Mary Alice is a great narrator!!! I loved her story. My favorite chapters were "Rich Chicago Girl," "Vittles and Vengeance," "Heart and Flour," and "A Dangerous Man." I loved the slight traces of romance. 


I would definitely recommend both A Long Way From Chicago and A Year Down Yonder. Both books do stand alone, but, they do go together well.

I first reviewed A Year Down Yonder in May 2008.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Starters (2012)

Starters. Lissa Price. 2012. Random House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I enjoyed this dystopian novel. Callie is our heroine. Early in the novel, Callie has to make a tough choice: should she rent out her body for profit and secure a life for herself and her younger brother, Tyler? Or should she continue the day-to-day struggle to survive when every single day brings danger and risk. Callie is older and stronger than her brother. If she goes to Prime Destination, it will be FOR him, not for greed. As you might have guessed, Callie DOES go to Prime Destination, she does sign the contract which allows Prime Destination to rent out her body to others (via neurochip). IN this society, "Enders" find enjoyment and thrills by renting the bodies of teenagers. The two are linked via the neurochip, but it is the Ender, the renter, who is in control of the young (newly made beautiful) body. Callie has signed on for three rentals, it will be the third that will change her life forever...

I enjoyed this one. I did. I enjoyed getting to know Callie AND the "voice in her head," Helena. I am looking forward to reading the second book!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Shadow Throne (2014)

The Shadow Throne. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2014. Scholastic. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Shadow Throne was the PERFECT conclusion to a near-perfect trilogy. I fell in love with this series from the very beginning. I absolutely loved The False Prince, which introduces the orphan Sage. Our hero is brave, strong, snarky, and clever. Technically, he's also good at lying. But some of that at least is due in part to the life he's been forced to lead for so long. Dare I say it's been NECESSARY lying?! Sage is a character I loved from the start. He's one of several orphan boys kidnapped by a rogue regent with his own agenda. Tobias and Roden are the other two boys. The regent's mad plan is to put an orphan onto the throne, trying to sell the other regents with the idea that this boy is THE LOST PRINCE thought to have been killed by pirates over four years before. Connor, the mad and bad regent, knows his schemes are ambitious. But he's very arrogant, confident that he can do the impossible: train an uneducated orphan how to be a prince in just TWO WEEKS. Sage, guessing that failure equals death, decides he will be THE ONE to win the job that when all is said and done he does not want. In book two, readers see Sage, King Jaron now, on the throne. But this transition has been anything but easy. His regents who are much, much older see King Jaron as a joke. I don't know that they'd openly admit that they regret his return from obscurity. But, more and more are willing to say they regret putting him on the throne WITHOUT a steward or regent to "GUIDE" him until he comes of age. Just a few weeks have gone by, and Jaron's future is looking bleaker and bleaker. Early on, it becomes obvious to Jaron that life cannot continue on as it is. Without his country's support, without his country's knowledge, King Jaron is determined to act in the best interests of Carthya, and try his best to prevent the war from starting NOW. Even Jaron knows that war will come. But war in a few months is better than war tomorrow if your country is as ill prepared as his is. This is the book with Pirates! In the third book, the war has begun. Jaron and Tobias and Roden (not to mention Imogen, Amarinda, Mott, and Harlowe) face incredibly difficult challenges; everyone will be pushed and challenged. It's VERY, VERY intense. I loved it.

There are so many reasons I loved this series.

I loved the characters. I loved how the characters developed throughout each book. I loved how the core of each character stayed the same, in a way, yet how they continued to grow and mature. I loved the main character, Sage/Jaron. I loved the minor characters. They never felt minor to me. I loved getting to know Tobias and Roden. Especially in this final book, I really appreciated these two! I also loved Harlowe, a character first introduced in the second book. Mott is another character I adored!!!

I loved the relationships. I loved how the relationships built. How respect and trust worked out in some of these relationships. I loved the theme of grace and redemption, of forgiveness. I loved the honesty. I loved see Jaron and Mott; loved seeing Jaron and Tobias; loved seeing Jaron and Roden. The friendships in this one are so very, very strong. And this isn't even including the light touch of romance!

I loved the world-building.

I loved the plotting. The twists and turns. This series has so many surprises! The plot is well-paced and a perfect blend of intensity and humor.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Starstruck (2013)

Starstruck. Rachel Shukert. 2013. Random House. 339 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Starstruck is delightful and fun. It is. It is set in 1938 in Hollywood. It features three heroines; the narration switches back and forth between all three throughout the novel. The three aren't always friends. But. They aren't always enemies either. Each girl has a dream, a hope, an idea of how they want their happily ever after to come about. Selfishness comes naturally, but, that doesn't mean the girls lack depth of feeling.

Margaret (Margo) Frobisher (Sterling) has dreamed of being discovered for years and years. She is more than a little obsessed with the movies, with the big stars. When she is discovered, her life will change forever. It wouldn't have to be FOREVER, but, her family makes it super-dramatic. If she signs a contract with Olympus Studios, if she chooses to become an actress, then they never want to hear from her again. No matter what. She can never come home. Margo doesn't even take a minute to consider. To be a star is her destiny!

Amanda Farraday has reinvented herself more than once. She is another hopeful under contract at Olympus. She has not had her moment to shine...yet. She is not as obsessed with BEING A STAR as Margo. I think Amanda would settle for happily ever after off screen. I think Amanda just wants to be loved. Unfortunately, she seems to be caught in a world where appearance is everything and secrets have to stay buried because no one wants to live in the real world. I really cared about Amanda's story.

Gabby Preston is a talented singer, and a fine actress. Is she a great dancer? Not really. And Olympus wants her to SING and DANCE and ACT. To make it big, she needs to have it all, and Gabby isn't quite there yet. They encourage her to lose weight. They send her to a special doctor with special pills. Gabby is enthusiastic, or, as enthusiastic as one can be when struggling. Is Gabby happy? No! She wants to be a big star. She wants a HAPPILY EVER AFTER. And that means a romance with a star. Even if that romance is dictated and scripted--the product of the studio. Gabby has never felt good enough, she's always felt like an almost. Gabby, like Amanda, could use some good unconditional love.

Starstruck also features MYSTERY and ROMANCE.

For me, this series has more potential than Luxe. I enjoyed Luxe, but, saw the flaws and weaknesses with each book. That didn't stop me from reading the series! I read each and every one. I remember liking some characters, hating some characters. There weren't any characters that I truly LOVED. In Starstruck, I actually cared about all three girls.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Mountains Beyond Mountains (2013)

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World. By Tracy Kidder. Adapted for Young People by Michael French. 2013. Random House. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Some books are intimidating to review. They just are. Such is the case with Mountains Beyond Mountains. The book I read was the "adapted for young people" edition; it was adapted by Michael French. The book is good, very good. The subject is serious, but, the style is personal. The subject of the book is Dr. Paul Farmer. The book is not always in chronological order, but, essentially by the time you're done, you've got a good grasp on who he is, what he does, why he does it, how he grew up, how he balances (or not) his personal life and professional life, etc. The book seems very well-researched and quite detailed. I'm not sure all those personal details were essential. For example, I'm not sure readers need to follow every little fight he had with an ex-girlfriend and how that relationship developed and fell out. I suppose, it was interesting to have another strong opinion as to what he was like to be around on a day to day to day basis, but, was it essential? I'm not sure. 

 The book chronicles decades worth of work, mainly but not exclusively in Haiti. There is a lot of discussion about infectious diseases: how to treat them, how to make the most effective treatments available to everyone, how to decide who gets what and who pays what, etc. TB-MDR, HIV, AIDS among others.

The book has an honest, open approach to it. Many parts are narrated by the author who, over the years, accompanied him various places, observed him working and interacting, traveled with him to various conferences, etc. The author, of course, also was in contact with him at other times through email. The author, again, had access to interview those closest to Farmer. The book definitely reflects this.

I would recommend this one.


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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